Saturday, October 17, 2009


NEW DELHI: India and Russia, after protracted negotiations and some glitches, are now going full steam ahead to finalise the joint project for the stealth fifth-generation fighter aircraft (FGFA), which will havesuper-manoeuvrability and supersonic cruising ability.

The FGFA, along with other R&D projects like the multi-role transport aircraft (MTA) as well as the BrahMos-2 `hypersonic' cruise missiles, will gain further momentum when PM Manmohan Singh holds a summit with President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow this December.

India and Russia will then also ink the fresh inter-governmental agreement on military-technical cooperation to extend their "strategic partnership'' by another 10 years, as reported by TOI earlier.

The two countries will also sign an agreement on the "after-sales product support'' of Russian-origin equipment held by Indian armed forces to address New Delhi's long-standing concerns about technical problems and tardy supply of spares.

This was formally announced after the two-day talks between defence minister A K Antony and his Russian counterpart Anatoly Serdyukov ended in Moscow on Thursday.

While India has several ongoing multi-billion dollar military projects with Russia, which range from refit of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov and lease of K-152 Nerpa Akula-II nuclear submarine to production of 230 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and 1,657 T-90S main-battle tanks, the FGFA is the most futuristic of them all.

Though the Indian FGFA will be based upon the single-seater Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA being currently developed by Russia, it will be built to IAF specifications. IAF, for instance, is also keen on a twin-seater version of the FGFA.

Antony, on his part, has already declared India wants the FGFA's development to be completed by 2016 to ensure IAF can begin inducting it by 2017.

"FGFA discussions with Russia are progressing quite satisfactorily...they are on track. The Russian FGFA prototype should make its first flight sometime early next year,'' said IAF vice-chief Air Marshal P K Barbora.

IAF, in fact, recently finalised the technical requirements for its FGFA, which will have long-range strike and high-endurance air defence capabilities, and submitted them to Russia.

An Indian team will also be leaving for Russia soon to decide the exact sharing of the technical work-load between Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and Russia's United Aircraft Corporation.

IAF wants the FGFA to have "a very high degree of network centricity'' as well as multi-spectral reconnaissance and surveillance systems -- optical, infra-red, laser and radar sensors. Stealth, with a "minimal'' radar tracking signature, will be an important requirement.

The American F/A-22 `Raptor', each of which costs upwards of $140 million, is the only operational FGFA in the world at present. Another, the F-35 `Lightning-II', in turn, is still under joint development by US, UK and seven other countries.

IAF's most potent fighter is currently the Sukhoi-30MKI, which can be placed a little over fourth-generation, along with others like Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen and F/A-18 `Super Hornets'.

While fourth-generation fighters typically revolve around multi-role capabilities, FGFA takes it forward by incorporating stealth technology, composite materials, supercruise, thrust-vectoring and integrated avionics as well. 

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